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Money

The www.FedPrimeRate.com Personal Finance Blog and Magazine

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can You Get a Good Job With Bad Debt?

People generally go to college to get the tools they need to get a great job. A degree gives you the credentials you need for professional employment. However, the job hunt doesn’t start after graduation. One of the benefits of the college experience is the opportunity to attain internships and student positions that are designed to lead to permanent placement. They’re the diamonds in the rough that lead to the very job security people attend college to obtain. My best friend landed such a job, and despite how much her employers liked her and how qualified she was for the position, she was still very uneasy about her future.

It turns out that you need more than a great resume and an education to get a good job these days.

My friend applied for a student position with the U.S. Army as a civilian working on base. She would be hired as a technical writer, which was right up her alley. As an English major and a freelance résumé writer, my friend could create instruction manuals for equipment usage or artillery assembly in her sleep. Technical writing takes a skilled pen and an analytical mind, and she has both. So, from the moment my friend saw the listing, she got excited because she knew she had a real shot. The salary was nice and they offered tuition reimbursement. She knew that this was her job. Since she is a skilled résumé writer, she has never applied for a job and not received an interview (her résumés are that good), and she knew her résumé would also serve as a preliminary writing sample. She could kill two birds with one stone!

And that’s exactly what she did.

She got a callback and an interview. In fact, there were two interviews. In both of the panel interviews that she had to undergo, she absolutely shined. She’s just one of those people who knows how and when to turn on the charm, you know? I never did as well as she does in the standard, run of the mill, one-on-one interviews most people get from potential employers; yet in two separate panel interviews, she was able to handle the pressure and even impress them. If that scrutiny weren’t enough, there was the extreme background check; she had to fill out a form that was between 40 and 50 pages long, recounting almost every significant aspect of her life. It was so detailed that she had to give the names, addresses, and contact information of every person whom she had lived with for seven days or longer over the last ten years! How can you ask a college student who has had various roommates to give you that kind of information? It was a nightmare just gathering all of the information that they required. They looked into every job she ever had and anyone who she ever called a friend. It caused me to be a bit paranoid, being her best friend since childhood. I felt like I was under the microscope, too. Yet, despite it all, she passed the very extensive background check. She told me about how much her interviewers liked her. It was an exciting time for her.

That is, until she found out that they would also be checking her credit.

We both panicked - at the time she had a little over $10,000 in unsecured debt besides her student loans. It was also bad debt - as a full time college student she wasn’t making enough to may her bills, so those accounts were in collections. If the credit check was a part of the hiring process, my friend knew she was toast. We tried to remain optimistic about it, thinking that maybe they would let it slide or somehow the results would slip through the cracks. For a moment, there was a small ray of hope; she received an acceptance letter saying that she had been hired and received clearance to begin working. Then, the dreaded reminder at the end of the letter - she would start after her pending credit check was completed.

Of course, the credit check caused a problem.

My friend was called in and her would-be manager explained that her bad credit history posed a unique security risk that would prevent her from being employed by the Armed Forces. Because she would have access to extremely sensitive information, her financial woes could very well serve as a bargaining chip for terrorists seeking information. In a nutshell, they could not afford to have people who may be desperate for money walking around an army base with access to classified information and areas. They did, however, tell her that if she paid the debt off she could reapply. Without the job, she couldn’t afford to pay off the debt. So, a great opportunity was lost because of previous financial irresponsibility. Soon after this experience, my friend, an older student at the time, filed for bankruptcy.

Ironically enough, she was later hired by the IRS!

Go figure…

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